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People’s Vote or a General Election

Only 15 days into the new year (as at the date of writing) and already 2019 looks to be shaping up to be quite the roller coaster.  It was never going to be an easy year, the Year of Brexit, but the government’s defeat yesterday in the largest loss suffered by UK government in over 100 years has thrown even more confusion over the whole situation.

I’m exhausted.  Ever since the electorate who turned up to the polls vote by 52/48 to leave the European Union, there has been constant argument about what deal to make, whether a ‘No Deal’ is feasible, whether the vote should be allowed to stand when it was such a narrow margin and more people didn’t vote than took part, and now whether to 2019 largest uk defeat brexithave a ‘People’s Vote’, a general election (or, maybe, both) or just to push on through with a No Deal and basically cross our fingers and hope for the best.

In my opinion the vote on whether to leave the EU was fundamentally flawed when both sides of the argument accepted it would be a ‘yes/no’ vote.  On the ‘Yes’ side there was no information as to what any likely deal might be and the electorate were comprehensively lied to by the Brexit campaign*.  On the ‘No’ side, we were led by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn who was already widely known to be a Eurosceptic, wanting to leave the EU for very different reasons to the ‘no’ campaign as the EU is very much a capitalist organisation and JC wants a more socialist cooperative EU, and as a result the campaign was not seen as enlivened or engaging**.

So now what?  There is still poverty increasing exponentially, death on the streets as a result of violence or apathy including right opposite our seat of government, increase in use of food banks, disabled people being forced into situations where their health is severely compromised by the dire welfare/social security system and suicide seems the only option – there is so much happening in this country that we forget because Brexit takes up all our time, media and patience.

We need a People’s Vote and this time it needs to be an informed one and the campaigns led by people who believe in the result for which they are campaigning.  May was a Remainer leading Brexit, Corbyn was a Leaver leading Bremain.  It was never going to work.  I like Jeremy Corbyn and a large amount of what he stands for, but on this we disagree.

If we do have a people’s vote it must be truly informed.  We cannot have a ‘Yes/No’ vote.  We need to have options, and we need to know exactly what the deal is that we would be voting for if we voted out.  We cannot have a vote without it being informed, as we are consenting to an action being taken by our government which will have long-term repercussions beyond our and our children’s lives.

We don’t need a General Election, not yet.  The country is not ready for that, and it won’t solve the problem as it will be an election based on the EU issue.  The country and we the people deserve and need so much more than that.  We are living in a situation where membership of the EU is the topic that would override all other considerations.  Our people deserve more than being an afterthought to a trade deal.

peoples vote

I will be watching with interest and more than a little trepidation.  The next few days and weeks will be a rough ride.  But then again, I think this country has got used to life being a rough ride now.  We need a people’s vote.  Then, after this has all settled down a bit, THEN we need a general election.  But we don’t need Theresa May, whatever.

So, politics, bring it on. Again!




A Shattered Dream

BSLIt has been a long-cherished dream of mine that I would learn and become able to communicate in British Sign Language (BSL).

We all have the potential to lose our hearing to a degree and it is very likely we will as we get older, so I thought it would be a useful tool in my personal and work life.  I passed my BSL 101 exam without too much hardship, as I was studying with my Sooterkin™ and we could practice together.  It looked quite positive, and as a person who ‘collects’ exams, I need a measure by which I can assess my progress which is external.  Exams provide that measure, and as applied to myself I have totally bought into the ‘piece of paper proves I succeeded’.  Only applied to myself of course, I do not apply that measure to anyone else.

However, I have now attempted BSL102 twice; the first time I had to leave the term early due to an inability to find the balance between health and life, and this time I was taken aside by the tutor and gently and kindly told that I simply wasn’t to a level where I would pass the exam.  My forms were too untidy, and my grasp of grammar was not good enough.  I can hold general basic conversations but I cannot pass the exams.

I have failed, twice, for many reasons, not least of which I had no-one to practice with and so the one hour a week I was with others also learning was not enough.  Practicing any language alone is difficult, and I have always been ‘no good’ at foreign languages (my words).  BSL may be in English, but the order of words is distinctly Germanic, and I can learn and ‘speak’ but my receptive skills were bad.  This is the same for all my attempts at learning foreign languages.

I so desperately want to be able to speak another language, any language.  I don’t want to be that English person in a foreign land, desperately trying to be understood by speaking English very loudly in a staccato voice, twisting my own language in some ridiculous attempt to be understood.  I don’t want to have to exclude anyone who cannot hear properly or at all, or be excluded myself, from any social or other type of group in which there are people who are hard of hearing.

I tried, I really did.  I sought out Deaf Clubs, joined Whats App to join in the class group, asked if people were interested in meeting up outside of class, practiced at work, adjusted the time of the class so I could attend straight from work instead of having to go home then out again and thereby reducing the spoons used, pre-dosed on painkillers, went early to practice-chat to the class in the pub before we went to the lesson, I even missed out on the 20th anniversary party of my volunteer association Rushey Green Timebank ( to attend the extra lesson I paid for to prepare for the exam.  All to no avail.

Quite simply, I am just not good enough to pass the exam.  I can hold a conversation at a basic level, count up to one million, describe people and give and take directions.  I just cannot pass the exam, and I feel like a failure.  I am not a failure though.

I have learned more than simply very basic BSL.  I have learned that I don’t need a piece of paper to ‘prove’ that I am worthy or have value.  It’s taken me a very long time to learn that lesson and apply it to myself.  Why is it that we can learn and understand such ideas and apply them with love to other people, but not to ourselves?

phoenix rising

Phoenix Rising by ~spawntempest on deviantART

I failed, but at least I tried to the absolute best of my ability.  I’ll get over the loss of a dream.  I’ll concentrate on new dreams; I’ll bake; I’ll write; I’ll keep going.  I just won’t be having long conversations in sign language.  So I’m flipping the script.  I didn’t fail, I succeeded in learning something about myself, and isn’t that the best any of us can really hope for, anyway?

So like this picture, I shall wallow for a while but then, like the phoenix, I shall rise from the ashes of that dream to fly towards another.

Any excuse for a picture of a phoenix, eh?!


Un-Reality TV: Representation Matters

When I was 15 years old I decided to do a talk on my condition of Epilepsy for my English Language GCSE presentation to my class; I had been diagnosed with the condition just as I turned 12.  I rehearsed the talk in front of my English Teacher and had a seizure midway through.  I was then prevented from actually giving my presentation and given an ‘A’ grade.  As a result neither my experiences nor the information I could impart were ever given.

At the time I felt it vitally important this information be given to my peers because not once in my entire school life was it ever mentioned, discussed or alluded to.  I felt like a grubby secret, like there was something ‘wrong’ with me and I was being judged and found wanting.  I never spoke of how I felt because I did not feel there was anyone I could speak to.  I had been effectively silenced to the point I could not tell my family.

I had a seizure during a PE (Phys. Ed.) lesson with my entire year of girls at around age 14.  My type of seizure was known as ‘grand mal’ at that time (before the internet and the invention of the wheel) and involved full unconsciousness, uncontrollable shaking and often drooling.  I was lucky in that I never lost control of my bladder, but this can happen.  I found it utterly humiliating and traumatising, and as a result squished my emotions about it very far down inside me.

Everyone knew about my condition but no-one said anything, and I did not know anyone who had seizures of any type.  The only time I saw it on TV was in a 1985 episode of US sitcom Diff’rent Strokes when Arnold and Sam saw a street performer they befriended have a seizure of the same type as mine and were making horrible jokes about it.  It was resolved when their housekeeper Pearl shared her experiences of living with the condition and they developed empathy for her and by extension, others.  I cried for a long time after that episode.  It made me feel horrible and scared of what might be said behind my back.  It did not help me at all.  No-one spoke about my condition so how could people be stopped from making cruel jokes if they were?  I did not know if they were or weren’t.  The silence made me assume they were.

Recently, the BBC TV show Strictly Come Dancing showcased the Candoco dance troupe which is made up of able- and non-able-bodied dancers, performing Life on Mars with the Strictly professionals.  The backstage piece on sister show It Takes Two explained beautifully how the fact there were non-able-bodied dancers in the group had led to creation of new interesting moves and a fuller, more varied performance.  The variety of body types led to an improved choreography with greater context and content.

Yet still there is very little in real life interaction between able-bodied and disabled people, and the term ‘disabled’ is problematic in itself.  We are not disabled in ourselves, we are disabled by the lack of accessibility within social settings and in our homes, schools, colleges, restaurants, cafes etc.  This is short-sighted as every single one of us could become temporarily or permanently disabled at any time.  It is not too much to ask that accessibility should be at the forefront of any new building or business, for example.  In the long-term, so much more money would be saved and communities would not be broken up when people’s bodies or minds never or no longer fit into the boxes allotted them.

Integration into schools is a wonderful idea, but it is not practical for many of the buildings in which schools are housed, and without education on the various conditions that students may have, there will be bullying and exclusion.  Schools are overburdened with tasks at the moment and it is unlikely they will be in a position to educate and inform in the near future.

Furthermore, “disability” is used to describe conditions, whereas it is symptoms of conditions which cause problems.  A myriad of conditions may have similar symptoms, and people with the same diagnosis will have different presentations of their conditions in their lives.

So, what to do?  I have a few ideas:

  • Stop calling every person who appears on TV who does not match the two-arms/two-legs able-bodied image of ‘normality’ inspirational simply because they can do something to any standard, let alone a high one. Lauren Steadman, for one example, is a Strictly Come Dancing contestant who has only one arm, with the other ending at her elbow.  She is inspirational but not because she is disabled, because she is a fantastic athlete who has become a gifted and beautiful dancer.
  • Assume that no-one is normal. There is no normal, and if we took averages of eye, hair colour etc. of the entire country and worked out what the average person would be like, no-one would fit that average.
  • Don’t be scared of someone whose body presents differently to yours. It’s a shell, the person is on the inside.
  • Don’t talk over, around or ignore a person with disabilities. I know of people in wheelchairs who have been treated as furniture, simply moved out of the way of a shelf in a supermarket for example, without being asked if they would mind moving out of the way or being allowed the agency to move themselves.  Wheelchair users are not shopping trolleys!
  • Realise that the reason representation may not happen in real life is because real life is not adapted to bodies or minds which do not fit the idealised norm.
  • Understand that representation matters, and be active in encouraging it. Notice what is, and more importantly isn’t, around you. If you are involved in an organisation which is offered some sort of training, education or method of understanding a disabling condition, do all you can to facilitate it!

These are just a few ideas; I’ve recently become my local Labour Party ward’s Disability Officer to try and ensure disability is at the forefront of policy and that constituents with disabilities feel represented and able to be a part of the Party.  I am making the post fit my abilities and timetable.  I am more than capable, I just need to adjust a few matters to make it fit me.  It’s what anyone in any job will do, and the fact I have disabilities just means those are factors I must take into account, in the same way you may take into account the order in which you prefer to do tasks and prioritise accordingly.

No More SpoonsDisabled does not mean unable, incapable, or not able.  It means adjustment may be required to be able.

We all have different levels of ability whether considered a diagnosable condition or not.  Representation matters in real life, and if you don’t see representation around you, start questioning why.  It’s everyone’s responsibility, and that includes you.

We Are No Better: Racism in the UK

There is a tendency in the UK for white commentators on racism to look to the United States and think “thank goodness we aren’t that bad”; a self-congratulatory smugness which I too have been guilty of.  I was wrong and was reminded of my wrongness whilst watching the recent documentary series “Black Hollywood: They’ve Gotta Have Us”; if you’ve not seen it, do so before it disappears.

We white people MUST stop thinking and acting in this way.  It is dangerous, pervasive and allows for the continuation and perpetuation of systemic racism, and of the micro-aggressions in everyday life which are suffered by those not identified as white.  We have a habit of looking to the United States and seeing a history of slavery, shareholding akin to feudal serfdom, oppression through Jim Crow laws, the criminalisation of miscegenation, segregation and even now widespread voter suppression of non-white voters in States such as Georgia, Florida and Arizona, and the disenfranchisement of Native Americans in North Dakota, and congratulating ourselves that we are better than they are.  We like to think that it could not, did not, and does not happen in the United Kingdom.  We are not better.

Our institutions and our people benefited from slavery.  Our northern mills were run on cotton from slave plantations.  Our sweet tooth was destroyed by sugar cane harvested by slavery.  We were a part of the slave triangle; we transported slaves to the Americas, we transported the goods taken from the work of enslaved people, and we paid money to those kidnapping and transporting African people to the plantations.  Our economy boomed on the backs of those tortured and treated as cattle, dehumanised and destroyed for the sake of white prosperity.  There were 46,000 slave owners in Britain throughout the period in which slavery was legal.

We may have ended slavery in 1838, but we moved to an Empire which still oppressed and oppresses people of colour.  When independence was achieved by myriad colonies over the next 150 years, we moved to a Commonwealth through which to perpetuate the oppressive racist society we had come to rely upon.

no blacks no dogs no irish

A common sign in private rental accommodation before the Race Relations Act 1965 banned this.

Those who came to what was known as the ‘Motherland’ from the West Indies between 1948 and 1971, known now as the Windrush Generation, arriving by our invitation to take up the jobs we already resident in the UK did not want to do, were met on arrival with overt racism in the forms of signs stating “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish” when seeking accommodation and outright racism in political campaigns for elections, and are now met with a denial of their right to be in this country by

Tory campaign poster

Campaign poster for the Tory party from the 1960s

our current government.

We white people are seeing a renaissance of racist expression at the moment; there are more overt acts of racism being recognised and publicised than ever before.  Note however, that this is being recognised and publicised by the media, which is in itself a perpetuator of systemic racism.  What white people are seeing is not new.  What white people are seeing is the lived experience of people of colour, and it is still denied by so many.

Testimonies are denied by white people.  We demand proof, as if it is possible to give proof of words said, micro-aggressions given, looks sent and attitudes expressed.  We demand a level of verification akin to a criminal court or ‘it didn’t happen’.  This in itself perpetuates the very racism being testified about.  It is a Catch 22.  We white people do not suffer racism, we are privileged by it, and we therefore either do not see it or choose not to see it.

Overt racism is easier to fight because it is obvious, in our faces and white people can separate ourselves from it.  Covert racism is far harder to fight, because we must face the fact that we benefit from it and may (probably do) enact micro-racisms ourselves.  I used to say I was ‘colour-blind’ until I was awoken to the fact this is a racist thought process denying the experiences of those who do not have the privilege of being white and never experiencing racism.

If you are struggling for what you can do, try these for a start:

  • Acknowledge your white privilege and open your eyes to see how it is enacted every day. This will be hard at first, but once you start, it will, sadly, get easier.
  • If a colleague, friend or family member makes a racist joke – don’t let it slide. Ask them what it is they find funny about it, or pretend you don’t understand it and get them to explain the meaning.  Then simply say you don’t find racism funny.  No-one should get a pass on being racist.
  • If you witness a racist incident, don’t be a passive onlooker. Support the person being abused and confront the racist person.  Do it on your own volition, not on behalf of the person being abused.  Redirect the ire; be the change you want to see.
  • Sign petitions, go on marches, be public and loud in your opposition to racism at every opportunity. You may get tired of it, but people suffering racist oppression don’t get a day off so nor should we.
  • If someone tells you of a racist incident they suffered, don’t demand proof, offer empathy.
  • Speak openly with your children about oppression and make an effort to open them up to the history and achievements of people of colour. Watch movies, TV programmes and books with people of colour as protagonists.  Representation matters to everyone.
  • Don’t expect a person of colour to educate you. Do it yourself.  Google, go to a library, ask for recommendations from friends if you feel they will be receptive.
  • If someone calls you out on something you have said, stop and listen and take time to think about what they are saying. White privilege blinds us; don’t get upset by someone who is trying to help you to see.  If it is in an angry tone, just put yourself in the shoes of the person calling out – how many racist comments or incidents would it take to be aimed at you before you got angry at every one? They are doing you a favour in trying to help you to see, don’t tone police, just listen.
  • You might suffer from bigotry for other reasons, such as sexuality, ability or gender. That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from racism.  Privileges and oppressions intersect.  Don’t be the person who says “what white privilege? I’m *insert intersecting identity here*, I’m not privileged”.  It’s not a competition, it’s not an either/or situation.
  • Don’t claim to be ‘colour-blind’ or ‘not to see race’; that simply denies and silences the experiences of people of colour and denies your white privilege which you benefit from without having a choice in the matter. It’s offensive, so don’t do it.  That’s something I was called out on long ago, and I am very grateful for it.

confronting privilege

Confronting white privilege is an ongoing process which we white people must do every single day, no matter how ‘woke’ we may think we are.  If we don’t, we are the worst part of the problem.

GUEST BLOG-Diane Goldie Artwear

Well, it’s a bit of a guest blog, in that I wrote it for my friend and creative genius Diane Goldie.  I reproduce my section of the article here, with permission, and strongly recommend you click through to Diane’s site not only to see and hopefully either purchase or commission some of her wonderful innerwear (as I am now calling it), but also to read the full post which is longer than my mere wordage below! I’m leaving the photos of me wearing said Diane Goldie productions, so you’ll have to click to see that!

Wearing Myself

I first ordered a bespoke Diane Goldie artwork dress in 2014, in anticipation of the first handfasting celebration that I had been asked to participate in.  I wanted something unique, a dress that reflected me on a very basic and spiritual level, which also made me feel comfortable and look fabulous.  No pressure on Diane at all then!

So many images, so many words, so much that needed streamlining to fit on a dress; I knew the style I wanted, I knew the base colour I wanted, but what else?  What images could I select that would make me feel I was wearing my soul on the outside?

Diane is a fabulous collaborator; she intuits what you want, and the clothing is a part of you, not a covering for your skin.  My dress is an extra limb, a constantly firing neuron, an unspoken shout of who I am.

So of course, one is not enough and I have already purchased another off-the-rack sale item which again seemed to have been made for me.  Who knows, maybe it was?  It just took the sale for the dress and myself to find each other.

To wear a Diane Goldie artwork is not just to wear an item of clothing.  It is wearing oneself out, loud, proud and honest. It is a pride in myself that doesn’t put me above others, but above my own insecurities and my worst fears.  It is a shield and a sword that cuts through the bullshit to who I am and to who those who see it are.  I can trust the reactions of those who see what I am wearing.

If they love the clothing as much as I do, then I know I may have found a new friend.

I have ideas for my next commissioned piece.  That’s the (not a) problem with Diane Goldie clothing; like tattoos, you will find yourself always wanting more!

Mother, Sister, Daughter, Friend.

Mother, Sister, Daughter, Friend.

I am Jada.
I am Steubenville .
I am the co-eds at James Madison University .
I am the student at college.
I am the partygoer.
I am the football fan.
I am the one who was abused,
Raped, assaulted and used.

I was drunk.
I was in make-up.
I was dancing up close with my friends.
I was flirting and laughing and having fun.
I was smiling.
I was not smiling when he
Took my choice away from me.

I say to you
I am mother,
I am sister and daughter and friend.
I am a survivor or I am untouched.
I am human.
Yet this did not count when
The violence happened then.

I am myself.
I am existing.
I am enough to be considered enough.
I do not need a relationship with you.
I am woman.
I should have control over my sexual life.
I should not live on the edge of a knife.

No stranger
Presents danger
Any more than the person I sit with today.
The risk I may lose to a man seeking power
Over my body
May not come from the person I don’t know.
May come from the person who won’t let it show.

I may be
His friend or
Someone he knows or has met in the crowd.
I may be known as sister or daughter or in
Another way.
But it does not matter in what way I am known.
What matters is the respect that I should be shown.

So stop now
Don’t say again
That he should not attack because of who it may offend.
That she may be mother, or daughter, or sister, or friend.
To think of her
In terms of relationships, because they don’t define her.
And if none exist what risk then? Must she endure?

Say it and
You define
Who is deserving of the refusal of any man’s touch.
That personalisation doesn’t work anyway.
Freely given and
Updating consent, are the words that should be taught.
Not by relationship bound, but what by what we ought.

Your mother,
Your daughter,
Your sister,
Your friend.
Are these the only women you deem worthy
of respect?

Why is it then,
That it is taught?
That victims, that one victim,
That she
could be
Your sister, your daughter,
Tour mother, your friend
Before you will consider not hurting them?

Tina Price-Johnson © 28.7.14

Written four years ago, posted again, because I am still seeing this argument posted to try and persuade rapists/abusers not to rape/abuse.  Because apparently simply being a human being isn’t enough.

The Cosby Conviction

bill cosby

Bill Cosby has been sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison, a lifetime on the sex offenders register, must undergo mandatory counselling, and is considered to be a sexually violent person with a high risk of reoffending.  He is 81 and it has taken 50 years of his offending for his case to be taken to court, and for him to be convicted.

He is not the only man to have been accused; he is not the only man to be being taken to trial.  He is the first, and I think it would be naïve to assume that his skin colour has nothing to do with the fact he has been convicted.  For all his power, he could not fight the inherent systemic racism in the system.

He is guilty, let’s be clear on that.  He deserves his punishment, and considering how many victims there are and how long his offending has been going on, he got off lightly.  He has had over 50 years of success, fame and wealth.  His victims have had careers and lives ruined and even now, many will not be believed.

Harvey Weinstein will be the next high profile trial which has comparable status to that of Bill Cosby, with the latest accusation being that of sex trafficking.  It will be interesting to see how that trial goes.

It is also fascinating to watch the furore around the POTUS Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination Brett Kavanaugh, and the two accusations that have been levied against him.  Will Kavanaugh face a trial or will he be appointed to the lifetime role of a Supreme Court Justice and be in the position of making law and setting precedent despite the strong possibility (at the time of publishing the blog) that he has broken it?  The hearing regarding the accusation by Christine Blasey Ford is set for tomorrow, and the vote with regard to his appointment is set for the day after so we don’t have long to wait.  It should be remembered that this is an accusation of assault on a 15-year old girl by a then 17-year old boy.  The accusation made against him by a fellow student whilst at Yale is not scheduled for a hearing.

Trump has loudly criticised the accuser in myriad ways, all of which a basic google of statistics and sociological studies of sexual abuse, harassment and rape cases would have showed him are very common ways of reacting when one has been victimised in this way.  He asks why she didn’t report it, and implied in a tweet that ‘her loving parents’ would surely have gone straight to the police if she had told them; this has the extra twist of implying that either she is lying or her parents didn’t love her because they didn’t report it at the time.

Every word Trump has stated about this matter has been cruel, vindictive and I believe based in the very real fear that he sees his behaviour in Kavanaugh and wishes to push Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court so he himself will never have to face the consequences of his actions.  This is a man who admitted to grabbing women’s ‘pussies’ without their consent, to simply kissing beautiful women he sees without consent because he can’t help himself, and to walking into changing rooms of beauty contests (some contestants being underage) to see them in varying states of undress.

This is rape culture.

It would be a fallacy to assume that rape culture affects all people in the same way; misogynoir means that women of colour find themselves victimised by gender and race identity, entrenched homophobia means male-identified victims are disbelieved, transphobia leaves transgender people victimised at horrifically higher rates that cisgender people.  Patriarchy sees convictions very difficult to obtain if the charges are laid at all.

Racism finds the perpetrators treated differently depending upon the colour of their skin.  Bill Cosby had all the power, all the prestige and all the wealth at his fingertips, but still finds himself rightfully convicted.  What he did not have was the ‘right’ skin colour.

I hope very much that justice will be achieved for all those victimised by predatory males.  Until we rid ourselves of systemic misogyny, sexism and racism.  However, I will not be holding my breath until it is achieved.

Bringing Buffy Back

Buffy reboot

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS).  Yes, I have used the correct tense, even though it ended in 2003 (almost a whole UK school child ago; well until they said you had to stay until 18 years old, but I digress…).  I love it with a passion and intensity that a fan will understand.  Its seven seasons helped me through some emotionally turbulent times, and I resonated with all of the characters at one time or another.  There is so much about it that I could write a very long, detailed dissertation about why I love it and how it helped me, but here is one example:

Buffy musical episode imagePicture it – I am sat with two close friends watching (box-setting) some Buffy.  It’s the musical episode, and I am watching Buffy put her hands into flames.  I have been discussing personal problems with said friends and I say “I just wanted to feel something.”  Buffy etc. then burst into song, with “I Just Want to Feel”, and I get it.  I feel heard, I feel understood, I am able better to understand and deal with what-turned-out-to-be clinical depression.  The show helped me open up to others and to myself.

Now there is talk of a “reboot” of BtVS.  Yes, Mr Josh Whedon, him of the then-lauded and now-problematic feminism (the rose-tinted glasses came off as the fan base grew up; I don’t mean chronologically and I absolutely include myself in this), has spoken of bringing the beloved televisual experience back, and it has not proven popular within the Buffyverse (again, I include myself in this).  The showrunner working with him, Monica Owusu-Breen, has confirmed it is to be a sequel, not a reboot or remake.

A collective throwing up of hands and plaintive cries of besmirching of the beloved series have been sent out across the cyberwaves.  At first, I was one of them.  It was so good, so emotionally resonant, so cleverly scripted and superbly acted, so right, how could anyone, even Josh Whedon, consider bringing Buffy back?  She was so good she died to save us all.  Twice!

I have changed my mind. I’ve been thinking about why I loved it so much, and that I often wish there was something so mature and open, so inclusive, for my friend’s children to watched, and it dawned on me (as it did on Buffy, season 5 – ha, see what I did there?); why wish it when it looks like Josh Whedon may be about to reboot a series that would give them exactly that!

There were problems with Buffy at the time, not least its whiteness and able-bodiedness.  This could be the opportunity to write those wrongs (pun intended).  This could be Buffy 2.0, this could be Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens.

This could be the series that redresses all the criticisms of BtVS way back when.  I really hope so, and I am excited to see the new series because of the possibilities it brings and the hopes I have as an intersectional feminist that it will really be that good.

Let’s just hope it’s not Roseanne (the Racist Trump-Voter Years).  Nobody needs their memories destroyed like that.

Josh Whedon, we of the Buffyverse are watching you carefully.  Please don’t screw this up.

And will someone please make a series about the Birds of Prey, lead by Barbara Gordon’s Oracle?  Please?!  I hear Gotham is ending soon…


NHS – Happy Birthday, I Love You

Yesterday saw the 70th anniversary of the day the National Health Service was born, and it really was born, kicking, screaming, gasping for air and full of potential.  It was not a popular idea and the Labour government of the time had to fight very hard to realise the dream of a healthcare service free for all to use.  From its conception and throughout its hopefully immortal lifetime the NHS has been a focal point of discussion, derision, hope and fear, and there are very few people in the UK who have not been in contact with the NHS at some point in their lives.

NHS leaflet 1948 - front page

First page of the leaflet introducing the new service to the country; July 1948

The NHS is, for me, the pinnacle of what social care can be.  “From Cradle To Grave” as the initial leaflets informing people about the new service for all would state, we are now gifted with healthcare to protect and preserve us all.  If we have a serious illness or life-changing accident we know we can receive treatment and rehabilitation without forcing our families (if we are lucky enough to have support) into potential poverty.  If we have chronic conditions, we are not forced into paying sky-high insurance premiums if we are lucky enough to find insurance that will cover us, or having to make a serious decision as to whether our life is worth saving as opposed to the futures of our families or even our children, as insurance-based healthcare systems make their poorer citizens do.

It is a flawed institution, of course it is.  Almost from inception it has been underfunded, and there is always debate about how funding is organised, the postcode lottery of services offered to people, whether there is too much middle-management or not (spoiler: yes), what treatments should or shouldn’t be covered (homeopathy, I’m looking at you), but all systems are open to critique and that does not mean we should dismantle them.

Without the NHS I would be dead.  From birth, when my twin and I stayed slightly longer than normal in hospital partly because we were slightly jaundiced, partly because hospitals were nervous about multiple births at the time, and partly because we were a little bit early (again, because we were twins), I have been looked after by the NHS.

  • Aged 12 – I was diagnosed with epilepsy; I am on medication for this for my lifetime. Without the NHS I could not afford to pay for this medication.  My seizures would have continued, possibly worsened, they would have continued to come on without warning, and I would therefore have been in life-threatening situations every single time I fitted.
  • Aged 25 – diagnosed with clinical depression; I’ve been on medication twice now for this condition, and sought counselling twice. Mental health is an area in dire need of funding.
  • Aged 31 – diagnosed with spinal osteoarthritis which has since spread into my shoulders, neck, hips and is radiating outwards. I am on lifelong pain medication for this.
  • Aged 42 (just) – diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and am on the Watch & Wait protocol until treatment through chemotherapy is indicated. This is a complicated one, I do have cancer but it is known as one you live with rather than die from, although as I am 30 years younger than the average age for a diagnosed patient, it’s a bit up-in-the-air with regard to future prognosis; thusly the term ‘watch and wait’.

(I also have PCOS, sciatica and recurring Jessner’s Lymphocytic Infiltrate, but I consider those to have less of an effect on me that the conditions listed above)

I also received free dental treatment throughout my childhood which was lucky as I needed to wear different forms of braces from the age of 12 until they were removed shortly before I was 18.  Even now, the fee is minimal for a regular check-up, although having any fee for dental check-ups does mean many can no longer afford to go once they are past the age of minority.

The NHS has saved my life repeatedly, mentally and physically, and I am very deeply grateful for its existence and its continuation.

The NHS is in crisis in its 70th year; funding is desperately short and we are facing a loss of staffing as a result of Brexit even as we have a shortage of 100,000 medical personnel.  We need to fight harder than ever before to preserve the institution; imperfect, cumbersome and confusing as it may be, it is ours and it is an achievement admired worldwide.  “A Little Help From My Friends” is being released today, Friday 6th July 2018, for download to help raise funds, and can be found by clicking on this link here and downloaded by clicking here.


I will leave you with this, the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir performing “A Bridge Over You” (a Simon & Garfunkel and Coldplay mash-up) which still makes me cry tears of pride, joy and happiness.  The male soloist was my Emergency Doctor five years ago and this is MY hospital; you will be glad to know this single got to number 1 for Christmas 2015 charts after a massive campaign to get it there.

Whatever its problems, I very much wish a Happy Birthday to my beloved NHS, and will always raise a glass to many, many birthdays to come.

I love you, NHS.

From The Outside In

Or, A Discussion/Debate is a Difficult Thing to Have!

I’m sure all two of my readers will be utterly shocked to read that I have been cogitating the concept of discussion and debate lately.  It comes from the many discussions/debates I become involved in in real life as well as on social media (and social media can be a great tool for opening one’s mind and challenging one’s ideology, if one has been trained in and/or understands the difference between verifiable fact and opinion-based truth).

Houses of Parliament commons debating chamber

The UK House of Commons ‘debating’ chamber AKA how not to discuss or debate.  If you’ve ever seen Prime Ministers Questions it’s like a bunch of toddlers shouting over each other –they should all be in time-out!

I’ve banged on about context before and for me context is the fundamental basis upon which any discussion about a point which is being made is based, and context can change depending upon the circumstances from which we are basing our opinion and stating our personal truth.

Opinion is not equal, nor should all opinion be given equal time or weight in discussion.  The most obvious example of this is the debate on climate change, when 97%* (or more) of scientific opinion is clear that human action has had and continues to have a detrimental effect on the environment.  Political opinion is more varied and this can be seen in the policy governments make on climate change and steps that can be taken and are taken by such governments.

Scientific opinion is independently verifiable, factually based and empirically tested.  Political opinion is based on the most popular current democratic (to a given value) elected government and is not always independently verifiable through quantifiable and qualitative study.  This is why governments can make what may seem to many people as the planetary suicidal decision to ignore climate change science because of economic policy driven by unregulated capitalist ideology (for one such example) [coughUSATrumpcough**].

Similar thought processes on a much more micro level can show up in discussions on social factors such as sexist language, racist actions, the expression of transphobia etc.  I’m not only talking about opposing viewpoints but also about views which we may know are similar to our own but which are expressed in opposition.

For example, my basis of knowledge is academic and life-learning, as well as experienced as a white, cisgender, disabled (though not always visibly), mental-health challenged, sociology graduate (in race, gender and sexuality as topics of specific study), university-educated, UK(London)-based woman working in the legal profession.  There is a whole raft of privilege and oppression going on in there, all of which influences not only what I think but how I think and how I express what I think.

Others have entirely different experiences.  Some may come from a linguistic background and for them it is the etymological basis of words which drives the meaning of a post (and that can change the personal inferred-context of a discussion quite dramatically), for others it is what they have learned from newspapers and the bias contained therein which colours the way in which they understand debating issues, for more it is where they live and the society they are surrounded by which is the core of their belief system; generally it is a combination of many factors.

I try to think from the outside in as opposed to the inside out, and that is what drives my discussion, my research and my understanding.  I try to analyse the context of a post in a holistic way – what does it actually say, who may be reading it, what language is used and what it the sociological environment in which it is created?  I try to remove myself but of course that is not possible, I am the culmination of my experiences, knowledge and understanding.  It is possible to address those privileges and oppressions and see how they may be affecting my reading of a post however.

The best way I can see to do this is to remove myself and subtract the privilege I have and the oppression I see, to try and understand what is being stated.  Each statement made also has its own context – it’s really complicated, this debating thing, and something that can only be streamlined and developed with practice.

Sometimes what a point is saying is more important that the linguistic arguments one may raise about the way the point is worded because social context trumps linguistic context; what we may know to be true about an etymological point may not be understood by the majority of the people to whom the post is addressed.  Conversely the alternative may be true, if it is a point being made in a linguistically-based discussion, then the linguistic context trumps the social context.

At a more basic level, the voice of the oppressed should be given more weight that the voice of those who are identified with the oppressor when giving testimonials.  The verifiable study which has been and can be empirically reviewed and repeated should be given more weight that that of someone who has read a couple of newspaper editorial opinions on the subject.  That does not mean the one who has only read a couple of newspapers is wrong, at least not all of the time, but it does mean the foundation from which the opinion has been formed is not as solid.

For me, it is extremely important to take into account who may be reading/hearing the discussion and to assume a level of knowledge which is minimal.  This blog originally referenced debates only and now it’s now about both debates and discussions.  That changes the context and is more pertinent to the point I’m hoping and trying to make.

When engaging in discussion I try to have a broader understanding of the social context through which the discussion points may be inferred; it may not be about you!  Of course, social media and the internet is world-wide, but in that case, try and state the context from which the post is made if you are making it, or implied, if sharing it, and then work from that.

It is the reader/listener’s responsibility as much as it is that of the person who is making the point to ensure communication is a two-way street.